Asheville, North Carolina
This Southern city is the perfect spot for music lovers, adrenaline junkies, beer connoisseurs, and foodies alike. In fact, we love it so much, that we didn't even mind when, on a recent trip, our flight home was cancelled. In Asheville, there's always a silver lining—and it invariably involves listening to great music, while drinking and eating something delicious.
Where to stay: Asheville is one of many American cities with really strict Airbnb laws, making it a much better bet to grab a hotel room. We recommend the Doubletree by Hilton Hotels, which is right next to the historic Biltmore Estate (totally worth a visit—especially for architecture and landscape buffs) and has a convenient shuttle that takes hotel guests right to the center of downtown Asheville. The hotel also offers an Asheville Music Experience Travel Package, for music-lovers. Plus, those chocolate chip-walnut cookies guests get upon check-in are seriously delicious.
What to eat: There is no shortage of incredible food in Asheville—the only hard part is leaving room for the next meal. Standout spots include Hole Doughnuts for freshly made treats (our favorite is the toasted almond sesame cinnamon); White Duck Tacos, for both truly inventive and perfectly executed classic tacos (do try the pork belly, if they have it, and the duck mole); Limones, a longtime Asheville favorite (make a reservation, and don't miss the ceviche and the carrot-habañero margarita); and Buxton Hall BBQ, one of the best barbecue spots in the country, serving Eastern Carolina-style fare—get the pulled pork, for sure, but don't sleep on the barbecue hash (like a meat-studded gravy). Oh! And save room for pie. I'm still dreaming about the slice of banana cream-toffee deliciousness that I squirreled away with me, to eat late at night in my hotel room.
What to drink: Asheville residents love to let you know that the city has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in America (and maybe Earth?). Take advantage of that! Right in the heart of Asheville is Burial Beer Company, which not only has incredible brews on tap but also offers one of the most delicious brunches in town (try the burger and onion rings, sit in the backyard, and delight in the live music). There's also Wedge Brewing, which has two locations (and is a part of LaZoom Bus Tours' very fun Band and Beers ride). Also, check out Pisgah Brewing, just outside of Asheville, in Black Mountain. Their beer is award-winning, and the property is gorgeous, and includes a beautiful outdoor stage where acts like the Punch Brothers play, making for the perfect North Carolina night.
What to do: There is... so. much. to. do. For music lovers, catch a show at The Orange Peel, which Rolling Stone has named one of the top five venues in the country. (And we concur.) And don't forget to tour the Moog Factory, and try your hand at playing a theremin (it's even harder than you'd think). Check out Asheville's famous downtown drum circle, and follow up the dancing with a trip to Skinny Beats Drum Shop, where you can partake in a truly transcendent sound healing experience. For a really comprehensive idea of what Asheville's music scene entails, visit Explore Asheville's website, where you'll find event listings, venue guides, streaming local artist playlists, artist profiles, and more.
If you're more outdoors-y, there's tons for you to do, too. You can go stand-up paddleboarding with Wai Mauna tours, which will help you SUP right down Asheville's French Broad River—the third oldest river in the world. You can also go on a guided hiking tour with Asheville Hiking Tours, and see everything from waterfalls to herds of elk to swarms of fireflies, if you opt for the company's seasonal nighttime hike.